Jun 18, 2022
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Choi Hong Hi

The founder of Taekwondo.

HI, GEN. CHOI HONG (1918-2002) Korean founder of tae kwon do. As a frail and sickly youth, he studied calligraphy and taekyon under the tutelage of Han II Dong. His turbulent political and military career began with an expulsion at 12 for organizing a student walkout, and includes a Japanese imprisonment for complicity in plans to overthrow the wartime military government of Korea.
In 1937 Hi was sent to Japan to further his education and subsequently met a countryman by the name of Kim who taught Japanese karate. There followed a period of both mental and physical training, preparatory school, and finally the university in Tokyo. With the outbreak of World War II, Hi was forced to join the Japanese Army as a student volunteer. Toward the latter part of the war, he received a seven-year prison sentence when his plans to overthrow the Japanese military through the Pyongyang student soldier’s movement were discovered. Korea’s liberation from Japanese rule in August 1945 spared Hi from serving a full sentence. That same year, he enrolled in an English military school, which was later to become the Korean Military Academy. On January 15, 1946, he was commissioned a second lieutenant in the new Korean Army. Hi was promoted to captain and then major in 1947. The next year he was stationed in Seoul as head of logistics and became tae kwon do instructor for the American Military Police School there. In late 1948 he became a lieutenant colonel. In 1949, Hi was promoted to full colonel, and in 1951, brigadier general. He was named Chief of Staff in 1952, and was responsible for briefing General MacArthur during the latter’s visit to Kang Nung. While engaged in military duties, Gen. Hi conducted research on ancient Korean taekyon, Japanese karate, and Chinese kung-fu. In 1955 he christened tae kwon do, both in name and organized practice, spreading it to universities and military posts throughout Korea. In March 1959 Gen. Hi led the ROK (Republic of Korea) Army Tae Kwon Do Team, consisting of nineteen members, on a demonstration tour to the Republic of China and to Vietnam. Also in 1959, he published his first Korean-language text on the subject, which became the model for his 1965 edition. In 1965 Ambassador Hi, a retired two-star general, was appointed by the ROK to lead a tae kwon do goodwill mission to Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. This led to the formation of the International Taekwon-Do Federation (ITF) in March 1966. In August 1967 he visited the All American Tae Kwon Do Championships, a visit which led to the establishment of the U.S. Tae Kwon Do Association in Washington, D.C., with Jhoon Rhee appointed as its first Secretary General. Following numerous trips around the world to establish, promote, and solidify his art, Gen. Hi was also instrumental in introducing it to many universities in Europe, the Americas, the Middle East, and the Far East. In 1974 Gen. Hi moved the headquarters of his ITF from Korea to Toronto and reported that his organization no longer had any affiliation with Korea. Since his departure a new organization, the World Taekwon-do Federation, has been formed and is now considered the administrative body for worldwide tae kwon do. His publications include Taekwon-Do Guidelines, A Taekwon-Do Manual (1965) and Taekwon-Do (1972)-518 pages with nearly 3,300 photographs, the most ambitious work yet written on a single martial art.

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